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BBC rejects complaints over Sonia Deol show
23rd June, 2004

Complaints made against BBC Asian Network presenter Sonia Deol last month by some in the Sikh community have been rejected by the corporation in a letter today seen by Asians in Media. They were made after a guest on the show made inappropriate comments about the first Sikh Guru.

Emails circulating on the web and messages posted on Sikh websites inadvertently gave the impression that Sonia Deol was to blame, leading some to complain to the BBC. The Sikh Times even carried a front page story asking readers to petition the BBC and axe the morning show she presents.

The BBC's Head of Programme Complaints, Fraser Steel, however rejected any accusations that mistakes were made on the presenter's part. In a letter he states: "It seems to me that I should not uphold those aspects of the complaints we received which suggested there had been lack of due care in the preparation of the programme, an inadequate reaction to the offending remarks, or an intention to provoke."

Steel accepts that offence had been caused to some members of the Sikh community: "However the offence caused to religious feeling by the remarks themselves was clearly such that I must uphold that aspect of the complaints."

In other words while it was accepted that there was a legitimate cause for offence, in no way was presenter Sonia Deol to blame.

The letter states firstly that adequate care was indeed taken to prepare for the program: "My conclusion is that the programme team exercised a proper standard of care in selecting a guest for a programme of this kind and in ensuring that she was aware of the intended boundaries of the discussion."

It also rejects any implication that Deol did not adequately take action after the offensive comments were made: "It seems to me that Ms Deol and the programme team did react appropriately - and I should add that further apologies were made on air, by the Head of the Asian Network, and in a press release, and that the Director of BBC Radio met a group of leaders of the Sikh community and personally apologised to them for any offence caused."

And lastly Fraser also dismisses suggestions that Sonia Deol herself prompted the remarks: "I have found no evidence that Ms Deol deliberately prompted the offending remarks - rather the reverse, in fact, as the whole team had reached a clear view beforehand that comparisons between different religions should not form part of the agenda, and as the line of discussion which eventually led to the unfortunate remarks was carried forward by interventions by the other studio guest, not by questions from Ms Deol."

The decision will no doubt come as a great relief to the presenter, also a Sikh, who was said to be upset that she was blamed by some for the comments made by a guest on her show.

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